Cappadocian Ekphrases of Anger

Basil’s Homily 10 is devoted to combatting anger, and theme Gregory took up later even more extensively in his carm. 1.2.25 Adv. iram. As Oberhaus has noted,1 the parallels between Gregory’s poem and Basil’s homily are particularly strong in the respective ekphrases of an angry person (Gr. Naz. Adv. iram 85-110 and Basil Hom. 10.2). I offer here the Greek text and my English translations of both passages.

From Basil’s 10th Homily

Ὀφθαλμοὶ μὲν γὰρ ἐκείνοις οἱ οἰκεῖοί τε καὶ συνήθεις ἠγνόηνται· παράφορον δὲ τὸ ὄμμα, καὶ πῦρ ἤδη βλέπει. Καὶ παραθήγει τὸν ὀδόντα κατὰ τῶν συῶν τοὺς ὁμόσε χωροῦντας. Πρόσωπον πελιδνὸν καὶ ὕφαιμον· ὄγκος τοῦ σώματος ἐξοιδαίνων· φλέβες διαῤῥηγνύμεναι, ὑπὸ τῆς ἔνδοθεν ζάλης κλονουμένου (357) τοῦ πνεύματος. Φωνὴ τραχεῖα, καὶ ὑπερτεινομένη, καὶ λόγος ἄναρθρος καὶ εἰκῆ προεκπίπτων, οὐ κατὰ μέρος, οὐδὲ εὐτάκτως, οὐδὲ εὐσήμως προϊών.2

For their normal and customary visage becomes unrecognizable. The eye goes askance with a fiery blaze and they sharpen their teeth like boars that advance on one another. The face becomes livid and bloodshot; the whole girth of the body swells; veins nearly break from the internal squall, while the breathing rushes wildly. The voice becomes exceedingly high and tense, while speech becomes inarticulate and falls forth to no end, proceeding without proportion, measure, or seemliness. (Basil of Caesarea, Hom. 10.2 PG 31.356–57)

From Gregory Adv. iram

εἴ σοί τις ὦπται τῶν ἁλόντων τῷ πάθει, [85]
οἶδας σαφῶς φημι, καὶ γράψει λόγος.
ἔσοπτρον ἐχρῆν ἑστάναι χολουμένοις,
ὡς ἂν βλέποντες, ἀλλὰ τὴν αὐτῶν ὕβριν
μικρὸν χαλῷεν, τοῦ πάθους ἐξ ὄψεως,
κατηγόρῳ σιγῶντι κάμπτοντες φρένα. [90]
καὶ τόδἔστηκαὐτὸς ὑβριστὴς σὸς,
ἐν κατόψει σαυτὸν, εἰ σχολὴν ἄγοις.
πάθος γὰρ οἷς ἓν, κοινὰ καὶ συμπτώματα.
ὕφαιμον ὄμμα, καὶ θέσεις διάστροφοι,
τρίχες συώδεις, καὶ γένυς διάβροχος, [95]
ὡχρὰ παρειὰ, νεκρότητος ἔμφασις·
ἄλλων ἐρυθρὰ, καὶ μολιβδώδης τινῶν·
ὅπως ἂν, οἶμαι, καί τινα χρώσας τύχοι
βακχιώδης καὶ κάκιστος ζωγράφος·
αὐχὴν διοιδῶν, ἀγκυλούμεναι φλέβες, [100]
πνοὴ λόγον κόπτουσα καὶ πυκνουμένη,
λυσσῶδες ἄσθμα, καὶ φρύαγμἀσχημονοῦν,
μυκτὴρ πλατύς τε καὶ πνέων ὅλην ὕβριν.
κρότοι τε χειρῶν, καὶ ποδῶν ἐξάλματα,
κύψεις, στροφαὶ, γέλωτες, ἱδρῶτες, κόποι· [105]
τίνος κοποῦντος; οὐδενὸς, πλὴν δαίμονος.
νεύσεις ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω, λόγου δίχα,
γνάθοι φυσώμεναί τε καὶ ψοφούμεναι,
ὡς δή τις αὐλοῖς3· παιομένη τε δακτύλοις
χεὶρ ἀπειλή4 καὶ ψόφων προοίμιον. [110)

If you should see one caught in passion’s grip [85]
you know quite clearly what it is I say
and what my poem shall at once describe.
One ought to place a mirror before the angry,
that they may see and after just a bit
of rage, the passion glimpsed, restrain their soul
before their figure’s silent accusation. [90]
Or if you find yourself at ease, your foe
may serve the same end as the polished glass,
for one disease has symptoms shared by all:
The eyes are shot with blood and out of place,
the hair is bristling, jaws are wet with spit; [95]
The cheeks are pale— the very look of death.
some parts red, and some a leaden blue
as though the face had got its hues from painters
who knew no skill but only how to drink.
The neck swells; veins distend and curve away. [100]
The breath then cuts and strangles off the speech;
the breathing’s manic; thence, unseemly snorts.
The nose grows broad, replete with insolence.
The hands and feet begin to leap and spring;
they stoop and strain, turn, mock and sweat. [105]
and who’s to blame? none but this demon foe.
Their jaws move up and down without a word;
their cheeks inflate, emitting senseless sounds
as flutists’ do. The hands, balled into fists,5
become a threat and precursor of more. [110] (Gr. Naz. adv. iram 85–110)6

Bibliography

Crimi, C. 2018. “Nazianzenica XXII. Variazioni sull’ira in Gregorio (carm. I.2.25; or. 18).” In Cipolla, P.B.ed., Metodo e passione. Atti dell’incontro di studi in onore di Giuseppina Basta Donzelli, 131–44. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert.

Geffcken, J. 1909. Kynika und Verwandtes. Heidelberg: C. Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung.

Oberhaus, M. 1991. Gregor von Nazianz. Gegen den Zorn : (carmen 1, 2, 25) : Einleitung und Kommentar. Paderborn: Schöningh.

Wagner, S.M.M. 1950. Basil the Great. Ascetical Works. Fathers of the Church 9. Catholic University of America Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctt32b2kz.


  1. Oberhaus 1991 ad loc.

  2. To my knowledge, the best text remains the Maurist edition, reprinted in PG 31 coll. 353-372, which I have cited here. The homily has been rendered into English in Wagner 1950.

  3. P Caillau ἅλως (contra metrum) : codd. ἄλλος : ἀσκός Oberhaus.

    I have adopted the conjecture of Crimi 2018 136.

  4. codd. ἀπειλεῖ : ἀπειλή susp. Oberhaus

  5. The sense of παιομένη δακτύλοις is obscure. I have followed the paraphrase Geffcken 1909 30, who interprets the phrase as a circumlocution for “balled fists.” Oberhaus 1991 ad loc. rejects this in favor of menacing hand gestures. See also discussion in Crimi 2018.

  6. In translating Gregory’s verse, I have chosen to employ English iambic pentameter to render both iambic trimeter and dactylic hexameter, as iambic pentameter is the primary meter of both English epic (Milton) and drama (Shakespeare). I differentiate between the two by permitting more archaic forms in English when rendering hexameter, since the diction of hexametric poetry, particularly in Gregory’s day, was much more removed from contemporary speech than that of iambic trimeter.

Basil the Great on Psalm 1

I’ve been reading over Basil the Great’s homily on the first Psalm, and rather enjoying it.  The beginning is an introduction to the Psalms as a genre.  Basil praises the Psalms as they combine the best of other genres in the Old Testament.  They foretell events to come, like the prophets, recall events in the past, like the histories, and give rules to live by, like the law.  The “old wounds of the soul are healed, and the newer ones are quickly set to rights.”  One of Basil’s favorite features of the psalms is their musicality.  The doctrine mixed with the “honey of melody” is delightful for the soul, where straight doctrine would not be so palatable.  

My own experience with the psalms has been different.  Frankly, I find it a rather puzzling book. I usually prefer either the narrative of the gospels or the logic of the epistles.  I realize, though, that I’ve completely missed the “honey of melody.”  In the west, most traditions typically don’t sing the psalms (unless they get appropriated for hymns or songs, which does happen rather often).  Here I’m jealous of Eastern Christians, who, as I understand, still sing (or chant) the psalms in their liturgies.  I do think I’d have an easier time memorizing the psalms and appreciating them if I sang them.  

Basil also shows his pastoral ability in the homily.  The Septuagint uses the gendered ἀνήρ (man, as opposed to woman) in the first psalm, rather than the more gender-neutral ἄνθρωπος (man/person, as opposed to God/gods).  I found his response rather interesting.  It does not cohere precisely with modern sensibilities (man is described as “the one more given to leadership”), but it’s not precisely complementarian either.  I found it rather touching:

“Why does the prophet single out the man for blessing? Has he cut off women from this blessing?  God forbid!  Man and woman share a common virtue (ἀρετή).  Since their creation was of the same honor, so too do they receive the same reward.  Listen to Genesis, ‘And God made mankind (ἄνθρωπον), in the image of God he created it, male and female he created them.’  Those who share a nature, also share labor, and those who have the same labor receive the same reward.  Why then, does he mention man, but keep silent about woman? Because he thought it was sufficient, in light of their shared nature, to refer to the whole by mentioning only the half more given to authority (ἡγεμονικώτερος).” 

Διὰ τί, φησὶν, ὁ προφήτης τὸν ἄνδρα μόνον ἐκλεξάμενος μακαρίζει; ἆρα μὴ τοῦ μακαρισμοῦ τὰς γυναῖκας ἀπέκλεισε; Μὴ γένοιτο! Μία γὰρ ἀρετὴ ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικὸς, ἐπειδὴ καὶ ἡ κτίσις ἀμφοτέροις ὁμότιμος, ὥστε καὶ ὁ μισθὸς ὁ αὐ- τὸς ἀμφοτέροις. Ἄκουε τῆς Γενέσεως· Ἐποίησε, (217.) φησὶ, ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον· κατ’ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς. Ὧν δὲ ἡ φύσις μία, τούτων καὶ ἐνέργειαι αἱ αὐταί· ὧν δὲ τὸ ἔργον ἴσον, τούτων καὶ ὁ μισθὸς ὁ αὐτός. Διὰ τί οὖν, ἀνδρὸς μνησθεὶς, τὴν γυναῖκα (5) ἀπεσιώπησεν; Ὅτι ἀρκεῖν ἡγήσατο, μιᾶς οὔσης τῆς φύσεως, ἐκ τοῦ ἡγεμονικωτέρου τὸ ὅλον ἐνδείξασθαι. (PG 29.217).

Basil’s Greek, at least here, is not overly taxing.  Fortunately, though, these homilies are available in English. CUA Press published the translation in 1963 as part of the Fathers of the Church series.  Sister Agnes Clare Way translated the homilies on the Psalms and the better known Hexameron. The translation seems to have made it onto Archive.org, which seems a bit strange to me (as the book is not yet in the public domain), but Ι᾽d certainly commend the homilies, in Greek or English, to the interested reader.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Varia

I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ